"I sent out 135 invitations for a coffee at my home and, low and behold, a large group of individuals came with their children," she said. "And at that meeting, we decided that we would all like to continue meeting on a regular basis."
They formed the Chester County Down Syndrome Interest Group, which has been a support system for local families for over two decades.
Through this community, Elaine met Colleen Brennan, whose daughter also has special needs. Their friendship would later blossom when they became co-managers of Kati Mac Floral Designs.
"It has been a dream," said Colleen. "We really wanted to create an environment where people with special needs could come and work."
The pair founded the Kati Mac Education Foundation after taking the reins of the pre-existing flower shop. They opened the doors last summer to help potential employees like their own children.
"My daughter Emily, she has sought out various different jobs since she graduated from high school," said Elaine. "But the idea of having a nine-to-five job just wasn't offered to her."
Emily's week was composed like a jigsaw puzzle of multiple jobs with two or three-hour windows of work. But she found more opportunity to grow at Kati Mac Floral Designs.
"People who have special needs love to work all the time," she said. "And it's a special feeling."
Kati Mac employs six individuals with special needs, two of which are part of the Chester County Intermediate Unit Discover Program. Each is trained to participate in all stages of the floral arrangement process.
"It might take someone a little bit longer who has special needs to complete a task," said Colleen. "We give them that time."
These Chester County moms hope these opportunities stem far beyond the four walls of their flower shop.
"We were hoping that, by creating this work environment at Kati Mac, that we're building a long-lasting, loving employment opportunity that will be mirrored throughout not only West Chester, but in the Chester County community at large," said Elaine.
To learn more about Kati Mac Floral Designs, visit their website.
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